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Feb 10, 2009


JB Hi Fi is by any measure an Australasian retailing phenomenon.  In the midst of the worst recessionary conditions, it has just posted 40% profit growth - see below.  We visited a store as mystery shoppers to go 'under the hood', and take the pulse.The video clip is a visual record of what we found. 

I visited Bondi Junction, a regular haunt for me.  The store was quieter than it has been on all my previous visits, especially for a Saturday.  However, the layout and merchandising generates a sense of excitement and buzz, supported by the 'ambient' rock music - if those terms could ever be used in the same sentence.

It is clear that the brand is highly relevant to today's market. Despite an era of internet downloads and illegal copying, customers are still happy to pay for the 'real deal, even in a recession.  What could be better than getting a great range at a great price, and with good service when required ?

The staff look the part - I was served by a young dude with a headband who could have just stepped off-stage.   I have always found their staff knowledgeable when approached, although they are not always smiling, they certainly have the inside knowledge on their product, and are willing to share their passion.  They keep busy which is a great thing to see - motivation is the result of activity. 

The product range is akin to category killer status - there is not much in the core categories of music, movies and sound and vision equipment you cannot find there.  A minor gripe is their camera offering which seems a bit limited, and not as competitive, but I guess they have to make their margin somewhere.

I liked the extent to which they provide 'curated choice' - apart from the expected Top Sellers, and New Arrivals, they also have staff recommendations, and then promotional displays in high traffic areas, some of which are clearly supplier funded.  This is not rocket science, but something many retailers do not get right.  

The layout gently 'forces' you to navigate many of the areas of the store.  The fixturing, lighting and flooring is simple and reinforces the brand promise, without looking dirty or cheap.  They walk a fine line between range and visual clutter, but then this is not a store for minimalists !

The brand proposition is clear and simple - reinforced by the black on yellow colours, simple fonts, quirky execution of the font, and even works with handwritten bargain signs, normally a no-no of professional retailers.   They feel like street traders who really know their customers and their product. 

Their customers were a cross-section, but mainly males, both younger (up to 30) and those you would call baby boomers - the latter provide a steady trade in the profitable backlist product.

The overall sense is of brand integration - or alignment - throughout - a very rare thing in retail today.  

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